Humboldt Seed Company: Inhouse Seeds

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Humboldt Seed Company’s main mission is to provide high-quality medicinal cannabis seeds to patients in California who wish to grow their own medicine. The company has added Oregon to its list of outlets.

Instead of relying on other breeders and suppliers for their seed stock, CEO and Founder Nathaniel Pennington explains where their seeds come from.

Nathaniel Pennington: We develop our own breeding stock through inhouse crosses and creation of IBLs (inbred lines) 99% of the time, but we had to start somewhere. Luckily, Humboldt County is and always has been one of the world’s best regions for cannabis genetics, so back in the day when we started I was given loads of seeds from Humboldt’s original cannabis pioneers! Of course, we’ve brought in a number of strains since, but they are all bred and backcrossed within our library for generations before release.

Humboldt Seed Company offers a variety of strains in their online catalog. Each offering has something different that will satisfy their customers.

  • Pineapple Train Wreck is a dense, compact plant that produces huge, bright green buds. This strain develops a high yield with an early finish date.

  • Venom OG grows into a huge plant with dense, bright green nugs.

  • Humboldt Headband is a compact plant with dense tight buds. This strain is resistant to mold.

  • Dream Queen is a large producer and flowers quickly. The extremely green buds have a sweet, skunky smell.

CBJ: What are the benefits of growing from seed?

NP: I’d like to say first off that there are many advantages and disadvantages associated with both growing from seed and growing from clones. There is a time and place for both, and at Humboldt Seed Company we use our clones for breeding and cultivation almost as often as we use our seed. Clones have a known outcome and often are a great tool for stabilizing seed lines. I want to make it clear that we are not “anti-clone” in any way, particularly in this day and age when seed lines are almost never homozygous (uniform in phenotypic and chemotype expressions).

At Humboldt Seed Company we heard years ago, “Your seeds produced our biggest plants and great flower but there seemed to be a number of different strains/phenotypes.” We set out to fix that problem and have created seed lines that are almost completely uniform over the last 20 years. Growing from seed allows the plant to develop its root system naturally, promotes the development of taproots, and often produces larger plants.

Using seed also breaks the chain of pests and pathogens, or even systemic pesticides, which often plague clones. And lastly, growing from seed allows an outdoor farmer to plant seeds using only natural lighting (greenhouse), much earlier in the year (February–May) compared to clones.

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CBJ: Do my seeds need special care?

NP: Yes and no. Seeds are certainly the easiest way to preserve cannabis genetics and need no active care. Storage is key; light, moisture, and heat exposure are all bad for seeds. On the other end of the spectrum, a common mistake is to store the seeds in a refrigerator or freezer. A freezer that is dedicated to seed storage can be okay, but folks often put them in their kitchen freezer where the moisture created through condensation and temperature fluctuation wreaks havoc on the seeds over time. Simply storing seeds in a constant temperature, ideally between 50–70℉ is just fine. I always tell folks that their sock drawer would keep their seeds for at least a few years and their basement is best for four to five years but, beyond that, there are no guarantees.

CBJ: How do you get the plants to come out true?

NP: As I mentioned earlier, getting seeds to become true breeding, homozygous, or stable—which are all terms for uniform looking and testing plants—is not easy. The process takes time and involves developing IBLs. IBLs are created by breeding siblings or clones again and again until the progeny appear consistent. This takes years and often these IBLs are heavily guarded by breeders. When bred together, IBLs create uniform offspring and these true bred F1s are the holy grail of cannabis seeds. A common confusion in the cannabis industry revolves around the use of F1, F2, etc.

Cannabis strains are almost never genetically homozygous, so when shopping for seeds be aware that you may be inadvertently purchasing many different strains or phenotypes in a single seed pack. I’m not saying that seeds with genetic diversity are bad, just that the progeny will be diverse. At Humboldt Seed Company we’ve strived to produce seeds that will make flowers consistent with what we describe on our packages. I think this has set us apart in recent years.

CBJ: Can you buy your seeds outside of Oregon and California? Can you take the seeds into another state if cannabis is legal?

NP: This is an often-debated question. We have chosen to not ship our seeds over state lines because the legality is not completely clear. We are licensed in California and co-licensed in Oregon, and building out in Maine and Oklahoma. We use the same genetics to produce Humboldt Seed Co. certified seeds in states where we share licensing. With the passage of the Farm Bill and the legalization of hemp, any cannabis that tests below 0.3% THC is legal nationwide. My personal interpretation of this is that if there is below 0.3% THC in the seed, it is then legally hemp; but I am in no way suggesting that anyone do anything illegal or make any decisions based on my opinion.

CBJ: Do you have other items for sale on your website?

NP: We have flower, vapes, terp sauce, and purely distilled terpenes that we market; but truly, breeding cannabis is what we do and we try to focus on that by not allowing other products to distract us. We certainly do grow all of our strains out every year. We select over large populations to choose our breeding stock so we produce a good amount of cannabis and use legal channels to dispense it. We just don’t think of it as our purpose.

CBJ: Any other information you would like to share?

NP: We are pretty open with our breeding methodology and sometimes we see folks using our ideas and figure that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Often I hear that “you shouldn’t share your trade secrets so much.” I always figure that the reason seed companies exist is to focus on one goal: to produce the best possible starting material for farmers and gardeners to succeed.

Check out our YouTube channel for videos about what we do to keep our seed lines improving every year. Our philosophy of being an open book revolves around our love for the plant as medicine and our theory that we should work as hard as we can for our community. Essentially, if someone works as hard as us at breeding cannabis we want to shake their hand, not have competitive awkwardness keep us apart.

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We have so much in common in this industry, and our common enemy is outside our current community from mega-corporations that don’t have the best interest of humanity in mind. We all need to work together to strengthen our ties against the machine that is corporate America.

P.S. We will be releasing something that has the potential to change the entire industry, in seed form, this coming fall, so stay tuned!

If you are currently a licensed retailer or distributor and wish to inquire about carrying Humboldt Seed Company products, please go to their web page humboldtseedcompany.com and contact them.